A Duchesne County man has died from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.

Gustavo Montiel, 28, of Roosevelt, was healthy prior to getting hantavirus, which is contracted from rodent droppings. State and Uinta Basin health officials said he went to the hospital on Sept. 2 and died there the next day.

His friend, D. Ray Cesspooch, described a generous, kind-hearted and extremely able young man who leaves behind a wife and two young sons, Jeremiah, 1, and Gustavo, 5. His wife, Nora, is expecting their third child.

"Gus was a jack-of-all-trades, a carpenter, an electrician, he could do all types of work, pretty much anything. He was a mason. There's not a trade out there he could not do," Cesspooch said.

There was also no one Montiel would not help, he said. The Sunday before he died, though he wasn't feeling well, he did electrical work for a couple who needed help, at no cost.

"This guy, he'd help anybody in this world, regardless of creed, religion, anything. Whoever crossed his path, he'd use his skills, his talents, let people stay, do plumbing, whatever, and whether he knew you or not. And he did it not one time, but every day of his life. If you had car trouble, he'd be the one to pull over," Cesspooch said of his friend.

Jeramie Tubbs, spokeswoman for the TriCounty Health Department, said public health officials are still investigating where he contracted the virus, but they believe Montiel was cleaning up rodent droppings and became infected.

Hantavirus is found in urine and excrement of rodents, particularly deer mice. People can become

infected by inhaling dust that contains dried, contaminated droppings. It's also possible, although less likely, to contract it through open wounds. It is highly unlikely the virus is spread from human to human, Tubbs said.

It's the first reported case of hantavirus infection in Utah since 2004, according to Utah Department of Health data. Since 2000, there have been 13 confirmed cases, two of them fatal.

Tubbs emphasized the importance of precautions when one encounters rodent droppings. They include using detergent or disinfectant.

"Instead of walking in with a broom and dustpan and stirring up dust," she said, "get the detergent or disinfectant and wet down the area thoroughly, then clean it up. After it's gathered up, go in and disinfect with a commercial product or with bleach. And wear gloves. When you're done, disinfect the gloves before taking them off. Then wash your hands and fingers."

You should also use a dust mask, long-sleeved clothing and protective eye wear.

Vacuuming is very risky, and a Hepa filter won't change that, she said.

Other precautions include removing materials that can be used as nesting areas around foundations, keeping tight lids on garbage cans, storing pet and other food in rodent-proof containers and not leaving pet bowls outside.

Symptoms of hantavirus include fever, fatigue, muscle aches, gastrointestinal symptoms and dizziness. As it progresses, it can include coughing and shortness of breath. Anyone who experiences those symptoms who may have been exposed to rodent droppings should seek immediate medical care.

More information is online at health.utah.gov/epihealth.utah.gov/epi/diseases/hantavirus.

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